True to the College of Idaho’s vision for the space, the school’s new Cruzen-Murray Library is a light and airy environment that gives students the sense of being surrounded by something much bigger than themselves. The library eschews the cloistered spaces for quiet learning found throughout traditional academic libraries, embracing instead a dynamic space that offers students ample opportunities for intellectual exchange.
For this project, the design team inverted the 20th-century library diagram of a great central reading space that is surrounded by stacks, offices, and meeting spaces. Teaching classrooms and administrative offices form the core of this library, and they also serve as a hub for vertical circulation. To allow for future adaptability due to shifting technology and pedagogical needs, the team designed a flexible floor plan with access flooring to distribute ventilation, power, and data resources.
The west side of the library contains its ground-level entrance, which doubles as a welcoming invitation to the campus. In addition, the western edge of the site includes a terraced landscaped amphitheater that provides round-the-clock access to a technology lab on the library’s lower plaza level. Inside, the library’s public and social spaces are arranged on its west side, facing an existing campus quadrangle, while quiet study and individual spaces are protected by its stacks to the east.
Upon entry, users are greeted with a sculptural stair that leads to a large reading room overlooking a two-story civic gallery. A convex cedar ceiling spans the second level, giving the space a warm and acoustically pleasant atmosphere. At night, the library glows softly like a lantern, an effect that is amplified by the richly expressed ceiling.
Throughout the highly sustainable library, a series of passive and active measures work together to significantly reduce its energy and water consumption, including on-site management of all stormwater run-off and a geothermal heat pump system. In addition, the library is wrapped with an insulated glass curtain wall that is shaded by a series of perforated metal shade fins, all carefully arranged to draw natural light into its interior spaces throughout the day. The fins spiral around the building’s elliptical shape, rising at the entryway to invite users inside.
Since the library’s opening, the college has reported a sharp increase in library visits. Moreover, the space has become a celebrated hub of campus life, demonstrating how libraries are much more than sources of information. The library has since welcomed a new writing center and expanded instructional technology support, and student groups and teams have relied on the space for gatherings.